Tapping into History: A First Person Perspective on the Museums in Sheridan County
“If those mountains could talk, I wonder what stories they would tell” is a thought that has crossed my mind time and time again. If they could talk, would the stories be about the boom of coal in the towns of Kooi, Carneyville, and Acme? John B. Kendrick at Trail End? Or the battles along the Bozeman Trail? To burst my own bubble, they can’t talk. But through the collection of first hand accounts, letters, art, and artifacts a story can begin to unfold in front of our eyes. To find out each of these stories mentioned and more, I ventured around Sheridan County in search of what I thought these mountains would be talking about.
Don King Museum
Beginning my journey in no specific order I decided to stop at the Don King Museum in the heart of downtown to learn some history about leather craft. To get to the museum I entered through the King Ropes store’s front door to walk to the alleyway access in the back, but found myself trying to decide which style of King Ropes hat I needed to have next. After a difficult ten minutes of thought I pressed on towards the alleyway exit, and directly across the alley was the entrance to the craft room and museum. When I entered the craft room I was greeted with an overwhelming amount of rope and work being done on custom orders. Through the craft room on the left the museum can be found. When I entered the museum, I flipped through the pages of the book to see if I knew anyone that has been here before. I then logged my name and was able to self guide myself around the collection. I’ve been here before, but as I look up and down the walls of Don King’s collection I always seem to spot something that I missed the first time. Whether it be Native American beadwork, The works of Al Stohlman, or a beautiful saddle from another corner of the world I can always count on finding something else of interest each time I go. Inside, the walls are lined with photographs and memorabilia from Don King’s life and career. Some notable sights in Don King’s museum are the covered wagon tucking in a corner of the first floor, and the works of Al Stohlman on the second floor.
Trail End Museum
Next up on my places to visit was the Trail End Museum. Trail End is a flemish-style home which was finished in 1914 as well as being the home of the Cattle Rancher, Wyoming Governor, and U.S. Senator John B. Kendrick. When I came to the museum, I had noticed that there was no on site parking, but the two roads that run parallel to the property (Delphi AVE. and Victoria ST.) provided ample parking for my needs. Another thing to note is depending on the time of year that you plan on visiting Trial End, the museum may have limited hours or could even be closed, so I looked online and planned accordingly. As I entered the front door, I was blown away by the mahogany lined walls and cozy atmosphere of the Kendrick home. Turning to my left I noticed the front desk and was given a brief rundown of the mansion’s history as well as a map of the first and second floor. With this information in hand, I was directed to start in the dining room as the first room in the museum. Through the informational signage in each room and the pamphlet directing me where to go next, I had a great time learning the history about each room in the home. The story of each room is told through the letters John B. Kendrick’s wife Eula Wulfjen, had written and sent to her mother. The letters added great commentary to the story of the home and solidified my understanding. Some notable sights in the home is the amount of technology the Kendrick’s had available to them at the time, as well as a third floor ballroom.
The Bradford Brinton as we know it today is an impressive collection of artwork, and Native American artifacts and boasts views for an impressive wedding venue. It all started with Bradford Brinton who bought the 640 Acre Circle A-Ranch from the Moncrieffe family in 1923. He developed the area to house his collections. I, like many others, had to check this place out for myself. I drove the almost 13 miles SW out of Sheridan towards Big Horn and was impressed by the grounds keeping and Ranch House that is seen through the trees on Circle A-Ranch. As I reached the end of the driveway I was greeted by Forrest E. Mars Jr. Building. It’s an impressive building having the largest rammed earth wall in the county. At the Brinton, the museum is free admission giving full access to 3 floors of exhibits containing artifacts and art. I entered the museum expecting to take in the sights of what was offered in the main building, but I found out that I could get a tour of the Ranch House which contains some of Bradford Brinton’s furniture and painting collection. The Ranch House seemed to be frozen in time with the artifacts and decor making it a must see destination when in this area. During the tour, the staff told me about the importance of each art piece as well as some interesting details about the land that we see today around the Circle-A Ranch. When going to the Brinton and Circle A-Ranch, make sure to go between the holidays of memorial day to labor day as that is when the Brinton will offer tours of the Ranch House.
Museum of the Bighorns
Museum at the Bighorns provided a fun step into the mining towns of years ago, The Forest Service at Tie Flume, and Native Americans in their landscape of the Bighorn Foothills. I was enthralled by the history of the mining towns of Acme, Carneyville, and Kooi due to their diorama explaining the coal mining process. While I was there, I was able to get a look at what these towns used to look like through pictures and dioramas. I also learned the history of Tie Flume and how some brave Forest Service workers would ride the flume down the mountain. The history about Native Americans in this area and their hunting practices on a buffalo jump near present day Lake DeSmet was fascinating as well. If you are seeking an understanding of the people who had a stake in Sheridan County, this is the place to learn more.
Connor Battlefield is not only a campsite in the town of Ranchester, it holds a history of one of the Indian wars that took place in Sheridan County. The story that unfolded here is best told through the interpretive signage, but it is the story of how General Patrick E. Connor led an attack with his 250 soldiers and 80 Pawnee scouts on Black Bear’s Arapahoe Village. When I visited I was amazed by the tall cottonwood trees that shade the property making it a perfect place to camp along the Tongue River. I would camp here if I was awaiting an early morning trip to the Bighorn Mountains or a hiking trip up Tongue River Canyon.
The Bozeman Trail Museum
The Bozeman trail Museum is a small log cabin and a truly hidden gem nestled into the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains of Big Horn, Wyoming.The Museum contains a collection of artifacts put together from families in the area. I was fascinated by the odds and ends of history from dental equipment to the Camp Crook Stone. The most popular being the Crook Camp Stone not only because of the way it was found, but because it contains the signatures of the men of the camp including Jim Bridger. During my conversation with Judy Slack, who helps facilitate the museum, I found out about Butch Cassidy’s connection to the area. While that information was not on display Judy showed a true understanding of the history that took place at the foothills.
Overall, there are many stories that I believe still echo between the peaks and valleys of the Bighorn Mountains. For someone to truly appreciate the stories told by these mountains, they would have to come experience it themselves.
Piper Steinmetz | Sheridan County Travel & Tourism | May 15, 2023
Don King Museum
A saddlery with a collection of Native American beadwork/clothing, guns, artwork, and cowboy culture. There are also photos and artifacts that piece together a history of Sheridan as well as the individuals who have influenced Don King’s work. Located just behind the King Ropes store and across the Alleyway, the museum and craft room can be found. The collection of Don King contains the works of Al Stohlman and many others from around the world. It’s a must see in Sheridan to gain an insight into the art of leatherwork while learning some history along the way.
Trail End Museum
A flemish-style home finished in 1914, and lined with beautiful mahogany and many other materials from out of state, Trail End was the home of John B. Kendrick. Mr. Kendrick was a Cattle Rancher, Wyoming Governor, and U.S Senator. Trail End is a self-guided museum explained by framed informational signage that tells the story of each room through letters written by John Kendrick and his wife Eula Wulfjen. Many of the items here are original to the home to help create a sense of place and is a must see location when spending time in Sheridan.
Museum of the Bighorns
With recent expansion, the Museum of the Big Horns displays a history of Sheridan County, and the influence of coal, forest service, Native Americans. With a recent expansion of prehistoric fossils, Museum of the Big Horns has nearly something for everyone to catch interest. Find out about Tie Flume, or the once bustling coal towns of Acme, Monarch, and Carneyville.
Fort Phil Kearny – Opens May 1st
Connor Battlefield is not only a campsite in the town of Ranchester, it holds a history of one of the Indian wars that took place in Sheridan County. The story that unfolded here is best told through the interpretive signage, but it is the story of how General Patrick E. Connor led an attack with his 250 soldiers and 80 Pawnee scouts attacked Black Bear’s Arapahoe Village.
Hanz Kleiber Museum (Ranchester)
The Brinton Holds a history of art, nature, and Quarter Circle A Ranch in a collection started by Bradford Brinton. Mr. Brinton was fascinated by Native American artifacts, art, books, and rare documents in which he adorned the walls of The Brinton Ranch House with. Take a self-guided tour in the Forrest E. Mars, JR. facility, or a guided tour through The Circle A Ranch house located north of the main parking lot and find history told through a collection of art and artifacts.
Wyoming Game and Fish and Visitor Center
The Wyoming Game and Fish and Visitor Center offers a comprehensive knowledge of laws, regulations, and other information on the wildlife of Wyoming. It features an exhibit of animal skulls and taxidermied animals along with interpretive information. Learn about how the animals of Wyoming interact with their surrounding environment and what Game and Fish does to help sustain that.